There are 7 easy hacks that can provide you with huge cost savings on medication in the long run. The most important thing to remember is that you need to be an empowered patient and act like a consumer of your health. Just like you would if you were shopping for cars, clothes or groceries.
#1 Medication List
Your doctor prescribed your medication, so they know what you take….right?
The answer far to often is NO!
A variety of healthcare providers and facilities can come into play that could affect your medication list.
- Primary care doctor
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Specialist doctors
- Hospital stays
- Urgent care visits
- Emergency room visits
- Clinics inside pharmacies
- Supplement stores
- Natural food stores
Aside from that your list may not contain all the needed information. You may also find that you others may have trouble reading your list if it is handwritten, especially when big drug names that can be easy to misspell.
Medication you take for arthritis given to you by your primary care doctor may interfere with medications your cardiologist prescribes. Every doctor you see needs to have the complete list, not just your primary care doctor!
Maintain a quality list
Your list scratched out on a piece of paper could miss some key details your doctor would want to know. Make sure the list you use has these key components listed below.
- Medication name
- Strength of the medication
- Dosage form of the medication
- How you take it
- Reason for use
- Prescriber or who told you to take it
Click here to download a copy of my free medication list that can easily be typed out and saved on your computer and printed off when needed.
Maintain the list
Each time you see your doctor you will want to go over the list. Most times this can be done with the nurse or office staff that takes you back into the room during your visit.
Ask them to review your list versus what the doctor has in their records for you. This will allow them to look for discrepancies and save precious time that you have with your doctor to focus on the most important health issues.
Having two copies always makes it easier for you to read along as the nurse is reviewing. Make sure if changes are made, have the doctor note them for you so you don’t misspell anything.
Once you get to the pharmacy, you will want to review the changes with the pharmacist as well. Everyone on your healthcare team needs to know exactly what you take.
Going home and updating the list on your computer will reinforce the changes your doctor told you, hit save and you are all ready for the next time you need to print your list out.
If you are more tech savvy, there are many apps that exist to track medication lists.
Apple is the leader with the Apple health app that tracks a variety of information. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if they can share the medical records they keep with you via Apple health as that is an option with some doctors electronic medical records today.
Other popular medication list apps include:
- ListMeds allows you to create a medication list and share via email with your doctor.
- CareZone makes it simple to keep track of medications and get reminders of when they are due. Caretakers can access the information as well if given access.
- Medisafe – Pill & Med Reminder to easily import meds and other health records onto your smartphone.
#2 Bullet Journal Medication Effects
Trying to remember what you had last night for dinner shouldn’t be all that hard. However, if I asked you what you had for dinner 30 days ago that might be a challenge to remember.
When you take medications you will have effects. Some will be positive effects that are the ones you want that mean the drug is working. Others will be negative effects also called adverse events. These are also known as side effects.
Both positive and negative effects can be subtle and hard to remember especially 30 days out. Many times patients will become accustomed to the side effects over time and forget the medication was causing them. Worse they may take another over the counter medication to combat the adverse effect.
Talk about costing you more!
If you don’t jot down key points on how a med makes you feel then how can you be sure it is working, or not working?
That is the key reason I tell patients to bullet journal on how medications make them feel. If the drug is not working, then why keep taking and paying for it?
If the drug works but has side effects, it is possible there is another drug you can ask your doctor for that wouldn’t have those side effects.
Writing things down makes you reflect and think deeper.
If you try to do this on post it notes, you will invariably lose them and all your great intel with them.
That is why I recommend using the bullet journal format to document how medications are affecting you. Here are some other added benefits of the bullet journal:
- It is easy to learn and get started
- Fully customizable (In case you want to journal on other things in addition to medication effects)
- The layout is clear and concise
- Allows you to go back and skim quickly through so you can gather your thoughts before you next doctor visit.
- Adding lists, which can help with some meds where you would want to track a lab value such as blood pressure or blood sugar.
Create a system by which you journal every day at the same time. A best practice would be to set this near where you keep your medication so you can write when your are getting ready to take your pills. You could also do this before you go to bed at night which is a great time to reflect.
For more details check out the top 5 reasons for bullet journaling on medication effects.
#3 Prevent Illness
According to the WHO Vaccinations:
- Prevent between 2-3 million deaths each year
- Decreased measles mortality by over 84%
- Made regions of the Americas measles free
- Has nearly eradicated Polio
- Are at the forefront of the battle against antibiotic resistance
There is no doubt that getting vaccines on the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) can save you money in the long run. You will be less likely to get sick and go to the hospital where most serious infections occur.
Not only will you save money on medications, but you can also save significantly on medical bills also by staying out of the hospital.
Did you know almost all health plans offer immunizations for no cost?
Since the passage of Obamacare, preventative services are typically provided at no cost to the patient.
Here are some of the most important things to remember when questioning if you should get a vaccine.
According to the CDC:
- Influenza kills more people in the U.S. than all other vaccine preventable diseases combined.
- 80% of Americans are not up to date on whooping cough vaccine.
- Vaccines save more lives than seat belts in the U.S.
- Thousands more could be immunized against Cancer who are not today.
Please talk to your doctor about your vaccine records and if you are up to date. It could save you big time!
#4 Physical Activity
There are millions of books and articles on exercise and the benefits. However, for some people exercise is not enjoyable or can be painful. That is understandable given disease states some people have.
However, that does not eliminate the need for you to have some sort of physical activity. It does not have to be 45 minutes of intense cardio. Anything will work, if you can walk, garden, mow the lawn, golf or do things you enjoy to get some physical activity.
Can’t find the time?
Don’t have much time? No problem, do 5, 7, 10, 15 minutes of activity a day when you can squeeze it in. Add them up to 30 minutes a day total and you are on the track for keeping medications at bay.
It will pay dividends in when it comes to medications you will need to take as you age. Let’s look at just a few of the benefits of getting physical activity:
- Helps control weight as we age most people will gain 1-2 pounds per year. Over time that adds up and leads to host of diseases that require expensive medications.
- Combat health conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, anxiety, cancer, arthritis and on and on.
- Can improve your outlook and mood. They don’t call it a runners high for no reason. However, you don’t have to run a marathon to have the same endorphins that are released during a run to make you feel better.
- You will be able to get to sleep faster and have deeper sleep the more you exercise.
- Since you will be more rested you will have more energy. The more endurance you have the stronger your cardiovascular system is and your immune system will be stronger.
Your doctor should give you the all clear before you start a new exercise program, especially if you have heart issues. That doesn’t mean you can’t do physical activity, rather that you will need to follow instructions on what type of activity you can participate in.
Adding in exercise or physical activity does not automatically mean you should eat more calories, see #5.
#5 Lower Calorie Intake
Regardless of your weight, a low calorie diet would likely be beneficial. Obviously if you are overweight, lowering your calories can help you reduce your weight. If you are at a normal weight low calories is a good idea also, since most people will gain 1-2 pounds per year over time.
If you are underweight then you will want to talk to your doctor before trying lowering calorie intake.
Why does lowering calories make sense? Well the process of digesting food is a major undertaking for your body. Much time and calories are involved in breaking down food. Many foods have things that are toxic in large quantities to your intestines and that can lead to a variety of ailments.
What benefits have been shown from calorie restriction?
A Study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2016 showed the following benefits.
For obese patients
- Lower risk or or reverse diabetes
- Reduce high blood pressure
- Improve cholesterol levels
- Eliminate sleep apnea
- Prevent coronary artery disease
For overweight patients
- Weight loss
- Live longer
- Better mood
- Perceived quality of life improves
- Improved sleep
How many calories is right for you?
Typically the calorie restriction will be somewhere around 25% less than what you eat now and that may change over time. Any more than this amount all at once and you will be less likely to stick with it. The goal is to keep your calories restricted over the long run and not be tempted to go back to your normal eating habits.
Keep in mind your diet needs to contain enough of all the major calorie types which are carbohydrates, fat and protein. Eating a low calorie diet of all carbs with very little fat or protein will not serve you well.
You should talk to your doctor about how many calories is right for you on a daily basis. They may refer you to a dietician to work up a detailed plan tailored just for you. The cost of learning how to eat less properly will pay dividends in the long run. Keeping you off of medications is just another bonus!
#6 Have a Medication Visit
Knowledge is power
Taking the time to gain as much knowledge as you can about your health will provide a high return on the investment. You be able to speak more intelligently about medications you need to reduce costs on, and feel confident initiating these conversations.
Taking time to better understand the potent medications you put into your body will give you a different perspective on why you take them. Feeling confident in yourself when asking your doctor to help you save on medication will be a key to your success.
Utilize your free resource
Your community pharmacist is one of the most underutilized resources available. Most people race into the drug store drop off the script, hope to get a short line and quickly sign away their counseling rights and zip out of the store.
What they don’t realize is that they just missed an opportunity to review with a highly trained professional who spent six or more years of college studying only medications.
Take the time to ask the pharmacist if this is the best option for you. Is this the only med I can get for this problem? Is this the lowest cost option? What will this med make me feel like? The valuable information gained could go on and on.
Use the pharmacist to prepare yourself to have a medication visit with your doctor. You will not regret the short amount of time it takes!
Be respectful of your doctors time
To save money on your medications you are going to have to have time allotted to talk specifically about medications. Schedule a visit and specifically ask that you will be there to talk about medication, not that nagging pain in your shoulder.
Having a specific office time to discuss medications and having your homework done ahead of time makes you a standout patient. Your doctor will be much more likely to listen and work with you if you show that you understand their time is valuable.
Doctors are pulled in 100 different directions and don’t always have time to review in depth on medications. When asked to do this in a cooperative way they will be open to your request.
Respectfully question and listen closely
In my book Prescription for Maximum Savings I introduce a worksheet that helps you prepare for an office visit. I call the worksheet the Medication Talking Points and it is the ultimate guide to making sure you explore every avenue to save more money on your meds.
If you complete the Medication talking points ahead of time you will have the respectful questions ready. Once you ask them make sure to listen closely. I even suggest you ask your doctor if you can record the conversation with your smartphone or a recorder. That way you can go back and listen to what they told you again, to ensure you don’t miss any details.
Empowered patients drive consumerism
Consumerism is prevalent through western society. It is defined as the theory that increasing consumption of goods that are economically desirable in the promotion of the consumers interest.
Apply that to medication and instead of patients thinking they have no other options than what the doctor prescribes, they instead search for the most economical way to treat themselves.
Patients become empowered when they take the time to gather the knowledge about the medications they take and act like consumers of their health. Patients take control of the cost of their medications when they become empowered consumers of health. Working together with your doctor as a team during a medication visit will allow you to maximize savings.
Deprescribe is a word we don’t hear often enough in the U.S. It means to stop or reduce the use of medication that are either causing side effects or are having no benefit. The goal is to improve health and prevent wasting money on medication.
The reason this step comes after your medication visit is that you should never try to stop medications without discussing with your doctor!
What conditions can be deprescribed?
Almost any medication can be stopped or deprescribed if approved by your doctor. However, the following disease states often require many medications, some of which can be desprescribed.
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Mental illness
- Chronic pain
High Risk Medications
As patients age certain medications can be more likely to cause harmful side effects due to the changes in body composition and metabolism. As these changes occur, the medication should be adjusted accordingly and deprescribing is a great idea.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) publish a list of medications that are high risk in elderly patients. The high risk medication list (HRM) are perfect candidates for deprescribing.
Medications on this list are there because they often have more risk of side effects than benefit they were supposed to provide in the elderly.
You should review this medication list and even if you are not 65 years old or over determine if the benefits of the medication outweigh the risk of side effects.
For more step by step, actionable advice check out, 5 Proven Methods to get Cheap Rx Drugs With Insurance